How To Make Plywood Smooth and Shiny

Sometimes, plywood come in bad state, and you might want to know how to make plywood smooth and shiny for your projects.

Glossing over wood is a perfect strategy to restore its shine.

However, there are specific steps to follow when working with plywood as it consists of thin wood veneer strips glued together with adjacent layers.

Here’s a brief overview of how to make plywood smooth and shiny:

Making plywood smooth and shiny is relatively easy.

The process begins with sanding to smoothen the surface, then painting it with your desired color.

In addition, you’ll have to seal it to prevent staining and splitting and apply a polyurethane coat for added protection.

This guide gives all the information to aid in making your plywood smooth and shiny, delivering a perfect finish, and helping out with maintenance.

Even better, you can use these tips for construction-grade plywood and hardwood plywood.

Check out the steps in the following section.

 How to Make Plywood Smooth and Shiny

The steps are as follows:

Sand the Plywood

Before we begin the process, it is prudent to note that the lumber’s smoothness and shine depend on the plywood’s quality.

In addition, remember that the wood comes in grades “A” to “D,” with “A” being of better quality and “D” having the poorest quality and even featuring knots and splits.

Therefore, you need different grit-sandpapers for each type.

Fortunately, wood stores have multiple sandpaper grits to accommodate all project requirements.

So, you can start sanding with 90-grit sandpaper when working with other Plywood grades, not “A.” It is rougher will deliver a smoother finish for the lower grade lumber.

Also, sanding removes rough edges and imperfections, facilitating a smooth surface.

Better still, it closes the lumber’s pores and is thus an essential step when restoring the plywood’s shine.

So, how do we sand the wood?

  • Use a slightly wet rag to remove dirt, dust, and debris. You can also utilize a vacuum cleaner to have these components go into the vacuum bag.
  • Sand the wood gently with 180-grit sandpaper as you follow the grain. Please do not rub the surface more than three times to avoid exposing the grooves or peeling the lumber.
  • Continue sanding with 200-grit sandpaper and repeat the process a few times until you remove all the wood imperfections.
  • Sand the lumber lightly with 220-grit sandpaper and go over the periphery twice. This way, you’ll smooth and even out the entire surface.
  • Remove the sanding dust with a vacuum. Alternatively, you can utilize a clean rag dipped in paint thinner or a handheld oscillating device with a sanding tool.

After sanding and cleaning the wood, rescan the surface to spot any gaps that need filling.

Then, follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using the wood grain filler. Also, leave the lumber overnight to let the filler dry.

Lastly, sand the plywood once the filler dries and proceed to the other step.

Paint the Sanded Plywood

You will find various plywood paint types: flat or satin, latex, chalk, acrylic, enamel-based, and oil-based.

Even better, you can choose whichever product depending on your preferred finish.

Flat or satin paint is perfect when you need a topcoat to protect the surface against bumps, while latex is the best choice for semi-gloss or satin surfaces.

Remember to seal chalk and acrylic after painting to keep the coat intact for longer.

In addition, you can use enamel-based paint for doors, floors, interior walls, and tables and oil-based paint for beams, cabinets, and shelves.

But ensure that you check whether the plywood is ready for painting before applying the formula.

The next step is to pour primer into a container and apply uniformly using a roller. Alternatively, you can utilize a paint sprayer for complete and even coverage.

But it is advisable to wait for at least three hours before adding the second coat. This way, you guarantee a durable finish.

On top of that, cover all the edges with the primer to help the wood become water-resistant.

Then, apply two paint coats to the entire surface using a roller brush or a paint sprayer.

It is also prudent to sand each coat with 220-grit sandpaper for a flawless finish.

Seal the Plywood Surface

Sealing the plywood protects the surface against rotting, moisture, mildew, and ultraviolet rays.

Better still, it keeps the lumber from splitting, expanding, and twisting. Therefore, please do not ignore this step.

Here is the sealing procedure.

  • Lightly sand all the wood’s edges and surfaces with 180-grit sandpaper. You can also use 120-grit sandpaper to make them smoother.
  • Use a clean rag to wipe the sanding dust.
  • Apply the formula with a paintbrush and do it evenly until you get full coverage. Also, take on one side before proceeding to the other for a better outcome.
  • Sand the plywood lightly with 120-grit sandpaper and apply another sealer coat.

 Stain and Polyurethane the Plywood

A stain or a polyurethane formula is perfect for this stage as varnish can make the surface resistant to stains, paints, and any other treatment.

Therefore, get your application tools ready and follow the steps below.

  • Apply the stain with a roller or paintbrush.
  • Wipe the excess stain with a clean rag.
  • Let the wood dry for 24 hours.
  • Add a polyurethane coat using a foam brush for more protection.
  • Allow the coat to dry.

Please note that polyurethane is not the only strategy for finishing your plywood. Other excellent alternatives include epoxy resin and a water repellant coat.

Epoxy resin delivers a perfect shine and is quick to use. In addition, it has a short curing time of eight to ten hours and reaches final hardness in 48 hours.

On the other hand, water repellent coats include drying oil, wax, paint thinners, and mineral spirits.

They keep moisture from penetrating the surface and highlight the wood’s natural beauty as they have no pigments.

Finally, it would be best to determine factors compromising the plywood’s shine and smoothness.

This way, you’ll select the best wood preparations strategies to adopt and the needed project tools.

Can Plywood Be Polished?

Yes, you can polish plywood to bring out its beauty.

However, it would be prudent to proceed with attention to detail, a little bit of intelligent planning, and tender loving care.

Also, remember that lower wood grades do not take paint and stain very well.

Thus, you may have to have a thorough wood cleaning and preparation session to facilitate a desirable outcome.

Please note that the first step is to apply a wood filler to cracks.

Then, utilize 80-grit sandpaper to smooth the surface and switch to a finer grit until you deliver the desired finish.

In addition, clean the sanding dust before applying a topcoat to guarantee proper adhesion.

Can I Use Pledge On Plywood?

It is okay to use pledge on plywood as it contains silicone, which does not damage lumber or clear coats.

The material also shines surfaces and can easily clean marble, stainless steel, granite, and leather surfaces without leaving a waxy buildup.

In addition, pledge makes it easy to remove fingerprints, dust, and light grime from multiple surfaces.

But, it can also present problems when you need to do some touch-ups or refinish the surface.

So, use it wisely and follow expert recommendations and advice.

How Do You Clean and Polish Plywood?

The first step in polishing plywood is applying a wood filler to any identified deep or wide cracks on the surface.

Use the end of a craft stick to scoop some paste and apply it to the nick or crack.

Then, use the other end to scrape across the wood filler, leveling with the wood’s surface.

Allow the wood filler to dry for the recommended duration by the manufacturer.

In addition, you may want to increase this drying period by 30 to 60 minutes in damp and rainy environments.

This way, you guarantee a dry surface before sanding.

On top of that, attach 80-grit sandpaper to a hand sander and set it on. Then, sweep it back and forth along the wood.

Also, ensure that you work along the wood grain and apply minimum pressure.

Further, note the sander’s weight is sufficient, and more force would damage the surface.

Once you finish sanding, use a tack cloth to remove all the sanding dust and go over the plywood again with 120-grit sandpaper.

Then, wipe it down thoroughly. Remember to follow the wood grain to keep the wood from chipping.

Lastly, finish the lumber by rubbing it with 220-grit or finer sandpaper. Also, check whether the surface is polished enough to receive a satin-smooth paint or stain coat.

Remember that plywood lasts a long duration with proper handling.

In addition, you will get a better result by keeping in mind the different features of the wood during cleaning and polishing.

Below are simple yet highly effective tips to help you out.

  • Dust the Surface. Dusting is almost like the rule of thumb for keeping plywood spick and span. Hence, dust the surface with a dry microfiber rag weekly.

In addition, consider dusting furniture more frequently if it attracts a lot of dust due to climatic or geographical peculiarities.

  • Brushing. Oil, dirt, and grime are more persistent and harder to clean than dust.

Worse still, they enter crevices in the furniture and may deteriorate it or cause discoloration when left unsupervised.

Therefore, use a soft brush to clean these elements from hard-to-access areas to extend the lumber’s lifespan. 

  • Cleaning Spills. Food or liquid spills are everyday occurrences in households with pets and kids.

So, clean the wood immediately you notice a spill to avoid staining. Otherwise, letting it sit for long periods may cause permanent damage.

  • Combating Humidity. Moisture and humidity are not ideal for plywood.

Also, although the furniture may have waterproof plywood, it is prudent to place the objects in well-ventilated areas. 

  • Protection from Sunlight. Direct and prolonged sunlight exposure can dull your wood’s allure.

Therefore, place the furniture away from the sun or reduce the ray’s intensity using curtains or other kinds of cladding.

  • Accessories. Plywood that experiences high traffic trends develops bumps, scratches, or dents.

Hence, use surfacing solutions, such as veneers and laminates to lengthen their life span.

Alternatively, you can have edge guards, mats, cloths, and coaters for aesthetic and functional reasons.

  • DIY Cleaning Solution. Always clean the lumber with a soft rag and a mild specialized wood cleaning product.

Fortunately, you can improvise cleaning agents by mixing ½ cup of white vinegar, one cup of water, and two teaspoons coconut oil or mineral oil.

On the other hand, you can mix a mild soap-based cleaner with water and use the formula with a microfiber cloth.

How Do You Remove Water Stains from Plywood?

Fortunately, we have multiple techniques that effectively remove water stains from plywood.

In addition, you can use more than one technique to guarantee the desired outcome.

And the sooner you notice the stain, the easier the removal process.

Additionally, please determine the stain type and how long it’s been on the surface before cleaning it.

For instance, the most common stain type is the white water stain, indicating that moisture has penetrated the wood finish and has been in the lumber for a while.

Also, working on fresh stains is different from old ones. For example, if you’ve just spilled some water on the wood, wiping it will prevent the water stain from forming.

So, immediately buff the surface with a soft cotton rag to absorb the moisture without scratching the lumber.

Follow the wood grain for a perfect outcome and use a blow dryer for areas with excess.

But adjust the appliance to a low setting, or you may end up turning the watermark into a heat mark.

Next, buff the surface with an oil-based wood once the surface is stainless.

This way, you remove any remaining blemishes and make the lumber look nice and new.

On the other hand, removing older stains requires more intense methods to deliver a good result.

So, check out the following strategies for your project.

  • Hardwood Floor Cleaner. You can get the recommended cleaning products to remove hardwood water stains from household and home improvement supply stores.

Also, apply them with a spray can and clean the surface with a damp rag.

  • Salt and Oil. Make a paste with some salt and olive oil and rub it on the surface.

Then, let the mixture settle on the wood for 15 to 20 minutes before polishing.

Alternatively, you can use one teaspoon of salt and some water if you can’t access olive oil.

  • Magic Eraser. This paste is a helpful commercial product for water stain removal.

Rub it gently while following the wood grain. You may also need to repeat the process multiple times for deep-seated stains before polishing the lumber as usual.

  • Watermark Remover. The remover eliminates watermarks and other blemishes resulting from heat, alcohol, cold, and magic marker stains.

However, it is prudent to read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to get the best result.

In addition, work in a well-ventilated space and wear gloves and a face mask where necessary.

  • Mayonnaise. Apply some mayonnaise to a cloth and place it on the mark. Then, allow it to settle for an hour or more, but do not let it dry.

You can also apply more mayonnaise to keep the area moist and wipe the paste away when the stain disappears.

  • Toothpaste. Use white toothpaste for this technique as the gel type will not deliver an accurate result.

Hence, apply a small paste to the stain and buff the wood, following the wood grain.

In addition, consider adding baking soda to the toothpaste when working with tougher stains.

  • Steel Wool. Believe it or not, steel wool soaked in lemon oil is a perfect strategy to buff wood stains.

So, use enough oil to prevent scratches on the lumber and work with the wood grain.

On top of that, it would be best to get high-quality steel wool to guarantee a perfect outcome.

  • Vinegar. Mix olive oil and white vinegar in equal measures and use a rag to rub it on the wood.

Then, use another cloth to wipe away excess liquid and shine the surface.  

  • Baking Soda. Create a paste with one water teaspoon and one baking soda teaspoon and apply it to the stained surface.

If the blemish does not come out, use more paste and allow it to settle overnight. Then, wipe it with a cotton rag in the morning.

  • An Iron. Place a thick cotton cloth over the water stain and press the hot iron. Then, hold it there for some seconds and check the stain.

Also, remember to set the iron to the lowest temperature to avoid causing heat damage.

  • Petroleum Jelly. Apply petroleum jelly over the stain and leave it overnight. Then, use a cloth to wipe the surface the next day.

Sometimes, you may have to deal with black stains. The blemishes are the most challenging to remove from lumber floors and furniture.

Even worse, they occur when water seeps beyond the finish and into the wood pores.

Fortunately, it is possible to manage the situation by using wood bleach.

But, first, you will have to remove the wood finish, which may not work well for antiques as their value may decrease.

Nonetheless, if the above concern does not bother you, go ahead and gently sand the surface.

Rub off the finish and use a paintbrush or an old toothbrush to apply the bleach into the stain.

Then, allow the bleach to evaporate for two hours and add more bleach.

This technique removes watermarks from deep within the lumber. And once the stains disappear, you can refinish the surface.

However, if they persist, it is best to use the wood bleach strategy.

So, get a commercial wood bleach and apply it to the wood after removing the wood finish.

And then, let the formula sit on the surface for four hours to facilitate a perfect result.

Neutralize the bleach by applying one-part vinegar and two parts water with a sponge, and then dry the wood and refinish it when the stain disappears.

Alternatively, you can use toothpaste and rub it on the watermark gently.

Lastly, please note that most water stains removal methods are pretty basic and need no professional help.

However, it is advisable to get expert help when using a pressure washer.

The appliances are powerful and can deeply gouge the wood, especially if you do not know how to use them.

Maintenance Tips for Keeping Your Plywood Smooth and Shiny

One of the maintenance tips includes using the correct sandpaper for the wood.

Ensure that you only use what suits the surface and start rubbing with the least fine sandpaper if in doubt.

In addition, avoid skipping areas that a power device cannot reach.

Instead, work on them manually and keep rechecking the wood by shining light at a low angle. This way, you will handle all the rough sections.

Invest in a high-quality paintbrush and pick an easier-to-handle accessory.

Even more, check whether the applicant can handle more paint to reduce the likelihood of an uneven surface.

In addition, work with a clean applicant to facilitate a flawless finish.

Finally, do not be so eager to correct mistakes. Sometimes, you may notice an uneven spot, but trying to fix it may create a bigger mess.

Therefore, it would be better to ignore minor errors during the application and sort them before applying the topcoat.

Here’s More On Painting Plywood


Plywood is a common yet underrated material, but trouble looms when it’s time to smooth and shine.

The material consists of delicate veneers layers and comes in different grades, needing proper handling. Thus, it would be best to learn the best procedures on:

How to Make Plywood Smooth and Shiny

First, sand the lumber to remove blemishes and fill it to deliver a uniform surface.

Also, it would be best to remove dirt, debris, dust, and grime to facilitate excellent primer and paint adhesion.

In addition, consider sealing the plywood and adding a polyurethane coat for superior protection from moisture and other elements.

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Tyron Otieno

Tyron is an avid woodworker and writer. He founded this website to help other woodworkers, whether hobbyists or professionals by sharing his knowledge and experiencie after a decade of woodworking.

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